Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Who Protected Laden?

We just learned at 11 :30 pm EDT on Sunday (May 1) in America via Internet and TV that a special American team had gone to Abbottabad, which is located in the Hazara district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (formerly known as Northwest Frontier Province) in Pakistan, to execute a daring mission. The city of Abbottabad is located about 90 miles to the north from Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan. The intelligence officials now say that Osama bin Laden was living in a mansion in Abbottabad for months; therefore, the al-Qaeda chief chose to live in a crowded city in Pakistan. Now it appears that Osama bin Laden lived in a city rather than in an obscure place perhaps for medical reason. The American intelligence knew all along that the al-Qaeda chief was living inside Pakistan. The US intelligence knew that bin Laden had been living in a mansion in Abbottabad since August 2010. A careful military plan was drawn and finally on May 1 , 2011 a special military team executed a plan to capture or kill bin Laden. No mention of Pakistani military assisting the US team was made by President Obama who addressed the nation at about 11 : 45 EDT. Therefore, it appears that the entire operation was planned and executed by American military with no assistance from the Pakistan's military. It was mentioned in the media that not a single person from the American team was killed in the operation. The purpose of this article is not to give a glowing encomium to American team that killed al- Qaeda chief but to raise the point - - who really protected Osama bin Laden in Pakistan all these years? The US intelligence had the information that in the aftermath of 9 /11 , particularly in December 2001 , Osama bin Laden and his entourage moved to Pakistan by crossing the porous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. This information was also known to many in the intelligence communities throughout Europe and North America. During the presidential election contest in US in 2008 , Obama made a pledge to US voters that if he were elected to the highest office in the land, he would hunt Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. It seems as if his prediction came true. The Pakistani authorities played a vicious game in the aftermath of al-Qaeda led attack in New York in September 2001. General Pervez Musharraf was the military president of Pakistan at the time. He was able to convince Bush that America needs Pakistan to hunt down Mr. Osama bin Laden. However, there was a catch. America had to shell out billions of dollars to Pakistan for hunting Osama bin Laden and Taliban leaders who were ensconced in the NWFP area. Pakistani military and intelligence would catch lower-level al-Qaeda operatives from time to time and also hand over lower-ranking Taliban leaders to show that they mean business. A regime change took place in Pakistan in August 2008 with the removal of Gen. Musharraf from power but that hardly changed the tactics of Pakistani military. They claimed that the Pakistani military were hunting down al-Qaeda leaders in such oddball place as Gilgit and Waziristan. There was no hope of catching Osama bin Laden or Ayman al-Zawahiri, the second man in command, anytime soon. Life was going as usual in Pakistan where a weak civilian government was running the show outwardly but the real power belonged to Pakistan's military. US authorities finally realised that Pakistani government was playing a vicious game in Afghanistan. They extracted billions of aid money since 2001 all in the name of catching the masterminds of 9 / 11 terror attack. Finally, US took the charge of hunting al-Qaeda top bosses inside Pakistan. As per President Obama, US authorities in recent days knew where Mr. Osama bin Laden took refuge inside Pakistan. They finally moved on May 1 , 2011 and killed the al-Qaeda chief after a gun battle. In Pakistan the military and its intelligence branch, ISI, know everything. Therefore, they must have had real time intelligence on Osama bin Laden. Moreover, the al-Qaeda chief chose to live in a mansion in a crowded city whose population is about 100 ,000. Since Mr. bin Laden holed up in this mansion for at least six months, would anyone believe that Pakistani police, ISI, and the military not know who lived in that mansion? Furthermore, the al-Qaeda chief maintained his own security force inside the mansion. The mere human activities inside the compound should give enough hints that a powerful person was residing in the big house. Still then, the Pakistani authorities were not perturbed about the occupants of this mansion. In conclusion, the Pakistani authorities, in particular ISI and the military, had the full knowledge of Osama bin Laden's whereabouts all these years. It is an open question whether they have protected Mr. Laden and his bodyguards or not. They say that in Pakistan not a single leaf moves without being watched by the military intelligence. Therefore, Mr. Laden's itinerant journey inside Pakistan was closely monitored by Pakistani military. Now that Osama bin Laden is dead, the inside story should come out.

After Osama : Stop Feeding The Beast

After years of former Pakistani military dictator General Musharraf assuring the world that bin Laden was either dead or in Afghanistan, he was found and dispatched by US special forces in the town of Abbottabad, a mere 30 miles – 50 km – as the crow flies from the capital Islamabad. Abbottabad is a colonial era army " cantonment" or garrison town and home to the Pakistan Military Academy PMA Kakul, less than two miles from the compound in question. To put it in perspective, it is like capturing Carlos the Jackal just down the road from West Point or Sandhurst. The notion that Pakistan's all pervasive Army-controlled Inter- Services Intelligence was unaware of bin Laden's presence beggars belief.   Although Bush-era National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley feigned total surprise about the location and its implications in an on-air interview after the news broke, WikiLeaks, as well as other sources such as investigative journalist Bob Woodward's most recent book, tell a very different story. By 2008 , the United States political and military leadership had lost all remnants of faith in the trustworthiness of the Pakistani military and its intelligence wing, the ISI, internally acknowledging that it consistently "hunted with the hounds and ran with the hares" , including the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqanis, and the Lashkar-e-Taiba – and was involved in planning terrorist attacks from Kabul to Mumbai. Pakistani intelligence has had a close relationship with bin Laden since the early 1980 s, when he acted as a courier, transferring funds from Saudi intelligence and its establishment to the Pakistani Jamaat-e-Islami to support the anti-Soviet jihad. It is no surprise that bin Laden chose to relocate to eastern Afghanistan, an area within Pakistan's sphere of influence, in 1996 – after he was expelled from Sudan under US pressure. Of course, the relationship has never been smooth – Pakistan's opportunism alienated al-Qaeda just as much as such behaviour alienated the United States – but also made it just as indispensable. Funded by the US taxpayer Despite this, the United States continued to funnel billions to the Pakistani armed forces in sophisticated weapons and cash – most recently a $2 billion package announced in October 2010 under the State Department’s Foreign Military Finance Program. The US is paying, not only for the use of Pakistan as a logistical corridor to its troops in Afghanistan, but for the privilege of conducting an increasingly aggressive covert counter-terrorism campaign on Pakistani soil – often against the Pakistani government's client groups. Analysis by SISMEC, the New America Foundation and others showed a massive increase in drone strikes in the tribal area of North Waziristan after the summer of 2008 , largely aimed at pro-ISI groups such as the Haqqani network. Most recently, US security contractor Raymond Davis was held in Pakistan for almost two months ( 17 January to March 16 , 2011)  after fatally shooting two alleged ISI agents, when he was believed to be surveilling the LeT in Lahore. As for Davis' claim that he thought he was being robbed, well that one's for the birds. The Davis saga came at the same time that the Obama administration was reportedly finalising plans for the killing of Osama bin Laden, a coincidence that we are sure we will be hearing more about. America's first attempt to kill Osama bin Laden came 13 years ago in August 1998 , when president Bill Clinton launched " Operation Infinite Reach" in retaliation for the suicide bombings that devastated US embassies in Nairobi and Daressalam. Sixty six cruise missiles were launched from the Arabian Sea at camps in eastern Afghanistan to kill Al Qaeda's senior leadership who were due to meet in a shura council. Pakistan's military leadership was informed by US counterparts shortly before the missiles entered their airspace, just in case they mistook it for an Indian attack ( India and Pakistan had just tested nuclear weapons earlier in May). Shortly after, bin Laden cancelled his planned meeting. Many US officials believe the Pakistani Army and the ISI tipped bin Laden off. Covert operations It is this long and frustrating history that explains why the US chose to conduct this mission covertly and unilaterally. In spite of face-saving Pakistani claims of joint execution, it was conducted in much the same way the US might have in a semi- hostile country, such as Syria in October 2008 , rather than its proclaimed "frontline ally" in what used to be called the "war on terror". It seems that Pakistani authorities had no clear idea of what was going on until it was all over, and a US helicopter bearing the SEAL team and bin Laden’s body touched down at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. There is an inevitable question about timing. Why on earth did it take the US so long to succeed? The standard, official defence was that this was a rugged area, filled with implacably hostile tribesmen. Today, questions are being finally asked about the Pakistani Army's complicity. The truth is deeper, and more unpleasant, and has much to do with the ways in which dictators around the world manipulate US policy with embarrassing ease. For almost seven years after 9 /11 , General Musharraf, a warmonger who seized power in a coup in 1999 , assured Bush that he was the only man who could hold back the violent fundamentalists and prevent them from seizing control of Pakistan's government and its nuclear weapons. The US should not push too hard, but rather leave Musharraf to crush the extremists. The reality was that the Pakistani government deliberately supported the takeover of extremist parties – such as the Islamist MMA alliance in 2003 – and facilitated the comeback of the Taliban, all the while profiting handsomely from generous US aid and the lifting of nuclear sanctions. This was despite the fact that democratically elected governments in both Afghanistan ( Karzai's 2004 election was accepted as free and fair) and India complained vociferously of the Pakistani military's support of extremist groups in both their countries. Eventually a newly amalgamated Pakistani Taliban turned on their former patrons in the government. Despite this, Pakistan continued to support the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani group, and the LeT, and the political leadership in the US continued to enrich a militarist dictatorship that fanned the flames of extremism at the cost of thousands of Asian and American lives. A new approach Since Bush's final year in power, freed from the baleful influence of Donald Rumsfeld, the US has taken a much firmer line with Pakistan's military – calling its bluff by acting more directly against extremists, and demanding ever greater accountability (for example the Kerry-Lugar bill) for the billions in assistance poured into Pakistan. However these measures were totally inadequate for the stew of militarism, illiteracy, and bad governance. The Arab Spring has eroded many of the conventional assumptions about the relationship between dictators, Islamists and the West. In Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria, we heard dictators playing the Islamist card for three decades – "support us unless you want the terrorists to win". The reality has been quite different. Dictators from Musharraf to Mubarak have relied on terrorists and extremists to bring in the US aid they so desperately need to survive. In the case of the Pakistani Army, they have been only too happy to feed the hand that bites them. Musharraf, having worn out the patience of both the Pakistani public and his US patrons was finally forced out in August 2008. He has been replaced with a weak civilian government that has served as little more than a useful facade for an army that remains addicted to both jihad and US money. It is a stark warning of what the Arab Spring in Tunisia and Egypt can turn in to unless people remain vigilant. Today, the US continues to lavishly fund the Pakistani military, while using drones and secret soldiers such as Raymond Davis to attack the extremist forces that the same regime supports. It is up to the US to stop feeding the beast.


In the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death, a number of people are saying that this does not mean that al Qaeda has been destroyed. Some argue that the organization may, in fact, be thriving. Front- page articles in both The New York Times and The Washington Post make this claim.  Many officials from Obama downward are saying this. I understand why officials have to say this. They want to be cautious. They don’t want to overpromise. But the truth is this is a huge, devastating blow to al Qaeda, which had already been crippled by the Arab Spring. It is not an exaggeration to say that this is the end of al Qaeda in any meaningful sense of the word. Al Qaeda is not an organization that commands massive resources. It doesn’t have a big army. It doesn’t have vast reservoirs of funds that it can direct easily across the world. Al Qaeda was an idea and an ideology, symbolized by an extremely charismatic figure in Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden was this Saudi prince-like figure who had gone into the mountains of Afghanistan forsaking the riches of a multibillion-dollar fortune, fought against the Soviets, demonstrated personal bravery and then crafted a seductive message about Islam and Islamic extremism as a path to destroy the corrupt regimes of the Middle East. History teaches us that the loss of the charismatic leader - of the symbol - is extraordinarily damaging for the organization. It is very difficult to keep such an organization together, particularly in the absence of great power backers. In the case of al Qaeda, this is a virtual organization held together by its message and the inspiration it provided. A large part of that inspiration was bin Laden. Ayman Zawahiri may have been the brains behind the outfit, but he did not excite people. When people volunteered for jihad, they were volunteering to be bin Laden’s foot soldiers, not Ayman Zawahiri’s or Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s. The loss of bin Laden’s personality is hugely important because it was so much part of al Qaeda’s appeal. In addition, we must remember that the death of bin Laden is not occurring in a vacuum. The Arab Awakening has already crippled the basic rationale of al Qaeda . Al Qaeda existed because bin Laden argued that the regimes of the Arab world were dictatorial and oppressive. He argued that the United States was supporting those regimes and, as a result, Muslims had to engage in terrorism against the United States and those regimes. He claimed that the only way to achieve change was through violence, terrorism and Islamic extremism. In the past few months, we have seen democratic, peaceful, non- Islamic revolutions transform Egypt and Tunisia. We are seeing these forces changing almost every government in the Arab world. Al Qaeda is not in the picture. So when you combine the Arab Spring with bin Laden’s death, you have a very powerful one-two punch to al Qaeda. Certainly, there are groups of terrorists around the world, some of which now call themselves al Qaeda. These groups are loosely affiliated in some sense. But gangs of bad guys have always been around. With the death of bin Laden, the central organizing ideology that presented an existential seduction to the Muslim world and an existential threat to the Western world is damaged beyond repair. We’re left with free-lance terrorists who will, of course, be able to inflict some harm. But the Somali pirates are able to inflict harm on civilians, and that doesn’t turn them into an existential threat to the Western world. That existential threat is gone.

US Kills Osama Bin Laden Blows PAK Cover

The United States hunted down and killed the world's most wanted terrorist and 9 /11 perpetrator Osama bin Laden in the wee hours of Monday. American Navy Seals stormed a compound in suburban Abbottabad in Pakistan, about 50 miles north of the capital Islamabad, and gunned down bin Laden after a firefight in an operation that took just 40 minutes to execute but four years to fructify. After identifying bin Laden through photos and videos, and collecting DNA and other evidence, they spirited the body of the Al Qaeda leader out of Pakistan, and later dumped him in the sea in a perplexing move. US officials later said they were conforming to Islamic tenets to bury the dead within 24 hours, but the real purpose of the sea burial was evidently aimed at denying any possible shrine being established for the Al Qaeda leader. Bin Laden was a Saudi national, but the Saudi monarchy reportedly refused to accept his body. The location of the dumping was not identified. The Obama administration kept Pakistan out of the loop, informing the government in Islamabad about the operation and its purpose only after it was completed. President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton acknowledged broad intelligence cooperation from Pakistan but did not attribute any operational help from their so-called ally and did not even thank Pakistan. Suspicion is deep in Washington that Pakistan's military intelligence establishment was sheltering bin Laden, because of his location in a massive compound in a cantonment close to the prominent kakul military academy. Questions are being asked whether the compound was an ISI safehouse. President Obama and other US officials described a small all- American team, involving Navy Seals in two helicopters, taking part in the swift operation in the dead of the night. Remarkably, there were no US casualties. Bin laden reportedly put up a fight, but he was shot in the head. Two couriers, through whom he was traced, his eldest son, and an unidentified woman, were killed in the firefight. There was a US mishap though that resulted in one of the choppers being forced to land in the middle of Abbottabad, possibly as a result of being shot down, recalling the debacles in Iran and Somalia . But the American team regrouped and fled without casualties. President Obama went on air around 11 p.m US East Coast time, after the operation was over and the American team established decisively that their dead quarry was indeed Osama bin Laden. "Justice has been done," Obama said. Americans across the country rejoiced through the night at punishing the man who had gloated at killing 3000 people on 9 /11 , mostly Americans, but also many other nationals, including some 40 Indians. The front gates of the White House and Ground Zero in New York became party central. Here is the immediate fallout of nailing bin Laden • Internationally, it restores US prestige as country that gets the job done • Domestically, it raises President Obama's stock, strengths his hand for hard economic decisions and increases his chances of a second term • Militarily, it offers US a chance to offer peace on its terms to shell-shocked extremists, accelerate the political process in Afghanistan , and withdraw its troops soon. It also offers the opportunity for Washington to straighten out a shamed, embarrassed and humiliated Pakistan. Also shot in the process of US exterminating bin Laden is Islamabad, which is at least in the dog house if not up shit creek. The country has once again been served with a "either you are with us or against us" notice. US analysts say Islamabad, or more pertinently the country's military establishment in Rawalpindi, now has to make a decisive call to give up using terrorism as a policy option. "The operation also highlights that Pakistan is truly at the epicenter of global terrorism," said Heritage Foundation expert and former CIA analyst Lisa Curtis. "The fact that the world's most wanted terrorist was captured in a major Pakistani city should silence those Pakistanis who rejected the idea of bin Laden being in the country as a western conspiracy."